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Ask Alex: Empathy Fatigue

June 05, 2018 by Sherpa

Every month, Sherpa Co-founder Alex Fisher answers your questions about senior housing sales based on her experiences as a successful leasing counselor, sales director, and community owner. Read more about Ask Alex in Alex’s Open Letter To Senior Housing Professionals. 

To submit a question, email AskAlex@sherpacrm.com. 


Dear Ask Alex,

While I pride myself on being empathetic and ‘digging deep’, I find myself mentally exhausted after the first couple of prospect interactions in the day. Do you have any advice on staying focused and energized?

Burnt-Out in Dallas

Dear Burnt-out,

Thank you for your question; I know that so many readers can relate. What you’re describing is what I refer to as ‘empathy fatigue,’ and it’s incredibly common in highly emotional sales. It was also one of the biggest challenges I faced as a new sales counselor.

Every day you’re putting yourself in others’ shoes, answering questions, dealing with complex family dynamics and ardently attempting to connect with prospects at every level. It takes a tremendous toll on your emotional and mental energy. Physically, you may feel drained. On top of that, you’re balancing your personal relationships and family demands, all while trying to stay positive and healthy. It’s a challenging role; it’s also why I call sales counselors like you “heroes”!

But, even heroes get tired. As the saying goes, “…you can’t pour from an empty cup.” When I got emotionally fatigued, I started to lose focus on the big picture, I tended to avoid “difficult” prospects and began deflecting to busy work. Bottom line: it can be detrimental to sales success.

So, how can you deal with empathy fatigue?

Practice self-awareness: Stop and look within. What emotions are guiding your behaviors at work? Are you taking prospects’ rejections personally? Once you realize what emotions are driving you, you can start to control them.

Ask your team for help. It’s tempting to try to do it all yourself, but it’s not very effective. We all need a bit of help in accomplishing our goals. Talking about our challenges with our team members can help us discover solutions and understand how we’re allocating our time. (For more on effective sales teams give this Ask Alex a read!) Remember, it’s not all on your shoulders. Engage with your team through brainstorming and planning for next steps (and maybe laugh a little while you’re at it). After all, a successful community with satisfied residents is a team effort!

Next, make sure you’re setting boundaries. This may sound harsh, but it can make you a better, more understanding sales counselor. It’s common for professionals in our industry to become overwhelmed by the emotions and heaviness of what we witness. However, if we don’t set boundaries or establish a healthy degree of detachment, we risk taking rejection or criticism personally. This, in turn, affects our ability to strategize and empathize effectively in order to guide our prospects to their next step. Emotional intelligence (EQ) plays a huge factor in our ability to set boundaries and build relationships during emotional sales. It’s also a crucial part of Prospect-Centered Selling® and, once you get the hang of it, you’ll see how satisfying and motivating your work becomes!

My last piece of advice is this: protect your time and energy. Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks to others so that you can dive into your work uninterrupted. Office settings can be rife with distractions; it’s essential to designate time and space for creative thinking and prospect planning. If you don’t, you’ll soon get stuck in a merry-go-round of phone calls, drop-ins, and sudden ‘to-dos.’ Continuous stopping and starting rarely result in a productive day.

Don’t be discouraged if these steps are a bit difficult to put in place at first. Take it day-by-day; I promise you’ll start to feel that fatigue dissipate, and you’ll develop more empathic endurance.

Stay heroic!

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